Vision Zero Initiative
The Human Factor

The Human Factor People might fail, the road system should not

The Vision Zero starts with a statement: we are human and we make mistakes. Our bodies are subject to biomechanical tolerance limits and simply not designed to travel at high-speed. Yet we do so anyway. An effective road safety system must always take human fallibility into account.

People make mistakes

An individual can feel nervous about standing on a chair to change a light bulb yet see a train coming and hurry to cross the rails. We have a very natural fear of heights, but lack the ability to judge velocity. We’re also naturally prone to be distracted and have our attention diverted by music, phone calls, smoking, passengers, insects, or events outside the car. On top of this, we just make silly mistakes. The human factor is always there – 365 days a year. 

Unreasonable risks

Considering this, our road systems are allowing drivers to take risks way beyond our capability. Road systems are based on all the factors long known to pose hazards. They have an unclear responsibility chain that actually blames the victims for crashes and injuries. For example, our road systems allow cars to travel at 200 km/h just a metre or two behind the vehicle in front. They allow cars travelling at 100 km/h to pass a child standing a metre away - in the wet and not knowing if the driver is fit or understands the risks.

Making errors part of the equation

Only by designing the entire transport system to cater for human fallibility can we overcome these risks. Doing so will teach us how to manage kinetic energy in traffic systems and change road and vehicle design – separately and in unison.
In every situation a person might fail - the road system should not. This is the core principle of the Vision Zero.